Black Utopias

Black Utopias : Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds

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In Black Utopias Jayna Brown takes up the concept of utopia as a way of exploring alternative states of being, doing, and imagining in Black culture. Musical, literary, and mystic practices become utopian enclaves in which Black people engage in modes of creative worldmaking. Brown explores the lives and work of Black women mystics Sojourner Truth and Rebecca Cox Jackson, musicians Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, and the work of speculative fiction writers Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler as they decenter and destabilize the human, radically refusing liberal humanist ideas of subjectivity and species. Brown demonstrates that engaging in utopian practices Black subjects imagine and manifest new genres of existence and forms of collectivity. For Brown, utopia consists of those moments in the here and now when those excluded from the category human jump into other onto-epistemological realms. Black people-untethered from the hope of rights, recognition, or redress-celebrate themselves as elements in a cosmic effluvium.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 11.94mm | 318g
  • North Carolina, United States
  • English
  • 14 illustrations
  • 147801167X
  • 9781478011675
  • 680,134

Table of contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Part I: Ecstasy
1. Along the Psychic Highway: Black Women Mystics and Utopias of the Ecstatic 23
2. Lovely Sky Boat: Alice Coltrane and the Metaphysics of Sound 59
Part II: Evolution
3. Our Place is Among the Stars: Octavia E. Butler and the Preservation of Species 83
4. Speculative Life: Utopia Without the Human 111
Part III: Sense and Matter
5. In the Realm of the Senses: Heterotopias of Subjectivity, Desire, and Discourse 137
6. The Freedom Not to Be: Sun Ra's Alternative Ontology 155
Conclusion 177
Notes 179
Bibliography 195
Index 205
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Review quote

"Black Utopias is replete with flashes of insight, important provocations, and an urgent ethical and political thrust. Jayna Brown models a patient search for intellectual kin adequate to the nightmare world of the present and its dead and deadening ideologies. She reminds us of the extent to which so much Black political thinking begins from a profound negation of the fundamental tenets of Western models of subjectivity. Ambitious, bold, and bracing, Black Utopias forcefully reorients conversations around utopia and Afrofuturism. A field-defining work." -- Anthony Reed, author of * Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production * "What does Black speculative practice feel like under the skin? What does it sound like? Where does it take us? Jayna Brown studies centuries of strange Black diviners and offers a map over the universe that is not about the stars but about a Blackness that births and rebirths life in contradicting quantum multiplicity. Where does it get at you (under the skin)? How do you hear it calling you? Let's go." -- Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of * Dub: Finding Ceremony * "As the book unfolds, the pleasure Brown finds in her archival encounters with Sojourner Truth and musicians Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane is as palpable as the book's pressed pages." -- K. Avvirin Gray * Women's Review of Books * "Among texts that examine Black embodiment-that examine our existence beyond and transcendence from the horrific bounds of State-sanctioned supremacies-Black Utopias stands out.... Regardless of your field, this is a must-read about Black existence and alternate states of freedom." -- Jennifer Brown * College & Research Libraries * "Jayna Brown's Black Utopias is an innovative interdisciplinary text that brilliantly uncovers a rich current of radical otherworldly utopianism within Black life, thought, and expressive culture.... It is absolutely essential reading for students and scholars of sf, utopia, critical humanisms, and posthumanism." -- Jalondra A. Davis * Science Fiction Studies * "There are books that captivate you fully, that illuminate you, challenge you, that pierce through you with such clarity and imaginative force, opening mind and soul beyond the definable, the settled.... Jayna Brown's Black Utopias is such a book." -- Kristina J. Kolbe * Ethnic and Racial Studies * "Throughout Black Utopias, Brown commits to multiplicity and contradiction. We see this in her non-hagiographic approaches to preachers, musicians, writers, and literary figures. . . . It is in this politicization of the vibrational and sonic that we experience the depth of Blackness's radical potential." -- Amber Jamilla Musser * Journal of Popular Music Studies * "Jayna Brown's Black Utopias . . . is personal and universal, critical and charitable, and continuously creative. . . . Brown succeeds in inviting readers to an imaginal realm of a less constrained 'reality' than what many people-and especially academics-presuppose." -- Daniel Boscaljon * Literature and Theology *
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About Jayna Brown

Jayna Brown is Professor in the Graduate Program in Media Studies at the Pratt Institute and author of Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern, also published by Duke University Press.
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Rating details

20 ratings
4.5 out of 5 stars
5 60% (12)
4 30% (6)
3 10% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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